A woman with mysterious chest pains was in a prickly situation thanks to the porcupine quill she unwittingly swallowed, and which in turn poked a hole in her aorta. Live Science reports the 49-year-old woman went to the ER with shortness of breath and chest pains that worsened when she would lie down. Doctors thought she was just having a panic attack and sent her home. But her symptoms continued, and she went to a different ER a week later. This time doctors found fluid around her heart and a defect on the wall of her aorta. They admitted her for treatment. The fluid around her heart had to be drained every few days because it kept building up, and the defect on her aorta appeared to be growing.
Doctors decided to operate on the woman and discovered a "black, sharp object" that "appeared to be a quill" stuck in her aorta. Tests confirmed it was a porcupine quill. That's when the woman revealed her dog had a run-in with a porcupine a few weeks before her symptoms started. She must have accidentally eaten one of the quills while removing them from her dog. The quill then poked through her esophagus and into her aorta. "Sharp foreign body ingestion is extremely rare but poses devastating complications and should be considered in the differential diagnosis of patients with otherwise unexplained chest pain," a report published recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants concluded. (Read more porcupine stories.)